#SCGuard Soldiers from 4-118 Combined Arms Battalion remove debris from a driveway that had trapped local residents during high water evacuation in Chesterfield #SC (📹courtesy of 1st Sgt. Eric Gallman, 4-118 CAB) #TeamSC pic.twitter.com/1DptBLSVk1— S.C. National Guard (@SCNationalGuard) September 17, 2018
Hurricane Florence swept through several parts of the eastern U.S. last week, causing extensive damage and flooding — resulting in the deaths of at least 35 people, according to CBS News. The hurricane — re-categorized as a post-tropical cyclone as of Tuesday — also left many without power, with outages reported across the region.
Ahead of the storm, crews in North Carolina readied hurricane response equipment, topped off fuel sites, and prepped additional response vehicles. Public agencies from nearby states began sending vehicles and crew. Still, when natural disasters hit, fuel is a common concern.
North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia were granted fuel waiver requests by the Environmental Protection Agency to have better access to fuel before, during, and after the hurricane.
“For the last week or so, we’ve been talking about the storm, so we kind of had a little advanced warning to see that it was starting to build, and the track it seemed to be going on,” said Bernie Kavanagh, senior vice president and general manager of large fleet at WEX Inc.
This is key to ensuring a fleet’s hurricane preparedness, which Kavanagh said should be broken up into three categories: pre-hurricane, during the storm, and post-hurricane.
“I think the government, state folks, are really good on the pre-side. They typically will have some sort of emergency fueling plan in place,” Kavanagh said. “So in the middle of a storm you’re not going to call someone and say can I get some bulk fuel delivered. You missed the window there, so you need to plan for that stuff ahead.”
However, not all fleets are this prepared, and the amount of preparation required may vary based on the fleet’s location.
“Most of them will have some sort of emergency plan in place, where days ahead of the event they’ll start to move vehicles, bring fuel in, they’ll fill up private tanks that they have, they’ll make sure they can house vehicles in non-impacted areas, move vehicles to higher ground. They kind of have a routine that they go through to prepare as best they can,” Kavanagh said.
Wilmington, one of the coastal cities hit hardest by Florence in North Carolina, has since been cut off from the rest of state due to heavy flooding and limited access to roads.
Cape Fear Public Utility in the area issued a statement on Sunday that it was in critical need of fuel to keep water treatment plants running. The utility warned that if it did not receive the needed fuel within the next 48 hours, it would be forced to halt water service, leaving many without drinking water. The New Hanover Emergency Operations Center, however, identified a reliable source of fuel for the utility within hours and worked to supply enough generators and equipment to last through the duration of the recovery process.
[Update 9/19] WEX confirmed that, as of Wednesday morning, its fleet cards are working and fleets are using them in several Southeast states, including North and South Carolina. Fuel transactions in Wilmington, NC, were confirmed based on real-time data collected by WEX Connect software.